When I reviewed it over a decade ago, my impression of Marin Alsop's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's ever-popular Fourth Symphony was not entirely favorable, at least, not at first. The opening movement seemed lax, if not entirely leaden. Transitions never seemed to have much continuity and nothing seemed to have much zip. Naxos's live, close-up, mid bass-heavy sound didn't help this impression, making everything appear that much more ponderous. However, by the time the two final movements rolled around, Ms. Alsop started to hit her stride, and the symphony reached its customary fiery levels of excitement.
I don't know. Maybe because Ms. Alsop begins more slowly than I expected, she intensifies the overall effect. Nevertheless, for comparison purposes, I put on several competing recordings, including Monteux and Boston Symphony (JVC), Szell and the LSO (Decca), Jansons and the Oslo Philharmonic (Chandos), Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Decca), Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (DG), and Haitink and the Concertgebouw Orchestra (Philips). I found all of these performances and their sound preferable in almost every respect to the Naxos disc. Not only were the performances crisper and more pointed, the sound appeared better focused as well. Add to that the fact that orchestras like the Concertgebouw and Berlin Philharmonic make the Colorado Symphony sound like a much-smaller ensemble--and I say this with no disrespect intended toward the Colorado Symphony, which plays quite well. Anyway, maybe you get the idea.
Fair enough, and for a low-cost recording, the Naxos disc is fine. With its coupling of the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, it makes a decent bargain. Besides, I doubt that one can even find all of the comparison discs I've mentioned, the Haitink disc not even issued anymore. Still, when you consider the alternatives, I'm not sure Alsop is entirely in the running, price advantage or not.
I suppose it all comes down to why a person might be considering buying the Naxos disc in the first place. If it's as a primary and only purchase, I should think any of the aforementioned conductors would be better choices. If it's to supplement a Tchaikovsky fan's collection of Fourths, then Alsop's rendering makes a good, fairly inexpensive option.
To listen to a brief excerpt from this album, click here: